New South Wales children will be offered a $100 bonus to attend arts and language classes, as the state government expands preschool subsidies to three-year-olds.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet handed down the 2018-19 budget on Tuesday, declaring it was “building for today and delivering for tomorrow”.
It includes a suite of measures to ease the cost-of-living burden on families, as the government attempts to woo voters before the March state poll.
A $100 ‘Creative Kids’ rebate will be doled out to all school-aged children to participate in extra-curricular activities like music, drama, art, coding and second languages from January next year.
“We know this won’t cover all costs,” Mr Perrottet said in his budget speech.
“But we want to open up a world of opportunity for our kids. Giving more parents – and more children – the encouragement they need to reach their potential.”
The rebate, costing $216 million over four years, will not be means tested.
Mr Perrottet defended that by arguing “heavy lifters” of middle Australia had missed out for too long.
It follows the $100 ‘Active Kids’ voucher announced in last year’s budget, encouraging sport participation. More than 390,000 of those vouchers have been redeemed since January.
The Active Kids rebate will continue and families can access both vouchers for each child.
NSW will also extend universal education access to preschool for three-year-olds, saving the average family $825 a year from January.
The subsidies will cost the government $197.8 million over four years, ensuring children have access to two years of preschool education.
Another 4800 community preschool places will be created with $42.1 million over the next four years.
Hampers for new mothers and a suite of cost-of-living measures to be delivered through Service NSW were announced in the lead-up to the budget.
The government will also put $3 billion towards a Generations Fund, using proceeds from the sale of 51 per cent of WestConnex, to keep debt at sustainable levels in the long term.
Half of any interest earned from the fund will go into community projects for each electorate, ranging from between $20,000 and $200,000.
Under the program, residents over the age of 16 can vote online on locally suggested projects like public gardens, programs for at-risk youth and upgrades to sporting facilities.
Nearly $30 million will be allocated to launch the My Community Dividend in 2018-19.
Mr Perrottet said the funding would be overseen by a yet-to-be-established board.
“We owe it to our children to prepare for the challenges they will face in the decades to come, not saddle them with debt,” Mr Perrottet said.
“The NSW Generations Fund adds a whole new level of resilience to the sturdy financial foundations our government has already built, to help withstand the budget pressures of an ageing population in the coming decades.”
He said governments were often preoccupied with big-picture infrastructure projects.
“Governments don’t always have the best solutions, particularly on smaller projects that make a difference to people’s lives.”
Mr Perrottet revealed a budget surplus of $3.9 billion, despite losing billions in stamp duty revenue.
The surplus for 2017-18 exceeded expectations by $600 million off the back of mining royalties and GST receipts.
The surplus will average $1.6 billion over the next four years.